English Restoration (1660–1702)

Cromwell was unable to establish a successful government, so Charles II, the son of the former king, was able to take the throne after Cromwell’s death in 1660. Charles II was passionate about architecture and art. He encouraged foreign craftsmen to come to England to refurbish his palaces and the homes of the nobility. His reign was not peaceful, because he clashed with the nobility over his faith. Following his death in 1685, his nephew James II took the throne. Dutch ruler, William III, invaded England in 1688. William and his wife Mary encouraged building and decoration. William’s sister in law, Anne, took the throne in 1702 after William’s death. England became a leading military power after their victory over France.

Motifs used include pediments, columns, pilasters, arches, C and S scrolls, fruits, flowers, shells, garlands, leaves, swags, acanthus, and urns.

Following the restoration of the monarchy, architecture turned toward Palladian classicism. The Great Fire of London in September 1666 brought Sir Christopher Wren, and his work determined a different course for buildings. He introduced Baroque motifs and concepts into English architecture.

Most grand houses had linear, U shaped, and some E and H shaped plans. Stone and brick were often combined on both public and private buildings. Less wood was used, as a result of the Great Fire, which caused a timber shortage. Types of stone used include Portland stone, red and gray granite, and slate. The most common building material was brick. Most construction was post and lintel. Churches were domed or vaulted.

Most public exteriors had classical columns, pilasters, pediments, quoins, and arches. Churches had towers or steeples. Palace and great house facades resembled Versailles or had Palladian devices. Windows on both public and private buildings were large. Most windows were rectangular with a shaped surround or surmounted with a flat lintel, triangular or segmental pediment, or a mixture of pediment shapes. Palaces and grand houses could have a combination of arched and rectangular windows separated by pediments or stories. Some dwellings had small windows on the ground floor, larger windows on the upper floors, and square windows in the attic. Sash windows were introduced in the the 1670s. Roofs on public buildings could be flat with balustrades and sculpture, or they could be gabled, hipped, or domed. Churches without domes had gabled roofs. Smaller houses had gabled or hipped roofs. They also usually had dormers. Palaces and grand houses had flat roofs with balustrades.

Most English interiors were very conservative and somber. Rooms had classical details, paneling, compartmentalized plaster ceilings, and wood floors. Wood carving was the most common form of decoration at this time. Color was carefully chosen. Expensive colors were used in the most important rooms. Churches often had white walls. Ceilings and domes were usually painted or frescoed. Most rooms in dwellings were dull colors such as brown, grey, blue grey, and olive green. Brighter colors were used in more intimate spaces. Floors in residences were usually wide, unpolished, oak or pine boards. Public buildings usually had marble or stone floors. Polished wood parquet was also used. The fireplace was usually a focal point. Staircases were often one of the most important features in the house. They were a focus for elaborate carving. Windows and doors were arranged symmetrically. Doors were made of dark wood. Most doors had paintings over them. At the end of the period, doors had an architrave, frieze, cornice, and broken pediment over them. Ceilings of public buildings, churches, and grand houses were vaulted, arched, or domed. The most common ceiling type in houses were molded plaster.

Wealthy interiors had numerous textiles. They were used as wall hangings, curtains, portières, cushions, and upholstery. Fabrics used in rooms usually matched. Types of textiles include plain and patterned velvets, damasks, satins, mohairs, linens, India cottons, woolens, Turkeywork and crewel-work. Colors used were green, blue, black, white, and yellow. The most favored was crimson.

There was minimal artificial lighting at this time due to wax being expensive. Also tallow and rush lights smelled bad and burned too quickly. Lighting was only used during social events and special activities. Candleholders used were candlesticks, sconces, chandeliers, and lanterns.

The Charles II/Carolean/Stuart (1660-1689) furniture style had rectilinear forms, S and C curves, scrolls, and turning. The use of veneers increased at this time. Charles II furniture was characterized by caning, carving, scrolls, and ball and bun feet.

William and Mary (1689-1689)  was a more conservative furniture style. This style had more Dutch influence. The style had richly figured veneer and marquetry.

The most common wood used for furniture was walnut. Facades had figured veneers made of burl, oyster veneers, crossbanding, parquetry, and arabesque or seaweed marquetry. Lacquered and japanned furniture also became popular. Round and oval tables became popular at this time. Cabinets on stands were very fashionable. Beds had wood frames covered in fabric. They had tall proportions, low headboards, and heavy testers.

English Restoration churches have influenced later churches in the Neo Palladian and Georgian periods. Some houses influenced later ones during the American Georgian and Colonian Revival.

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